Scientists must stop using 'weirdo words' if they want to convince the public that climate change is real, admits the woman in charge of the next major UN summit

 

Environment Editor

A A A

The battle against climate change is being undermined by the use of “weirdo words” by scientists and United Nations staff that is alienating the general public and confusing policymakers, the UN’s top climate official warned yesterday.

As governments around the world prepare for a crucial UN climate change summit in Paris in 2015, which could determine whether the worst excesses of global warming can be avoided, the woman in charge of the event, Christiana Figueres, said “communication is our major challenge”.

“It is extremely difficult for scientists to speak in a way that policymakers can understand them. Just like it is extremely difficult for delegates of the UNFCCC to speak in a language that anybody on the street understands,” said Ms Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Governments have agreed to use next year’s annual UNFCCC meeting to agree legally binding emissions targets sufficient to limit global warming to 2C – beyond which the consequences are increasingly devastating. However, even the most optimistic advocates of the process agree the UN has set a gigantic task. Ms Figueres says the key to succeeding is to “humanise” the message that climate change is a massive threat, requiring immediate and drastic action.

“Communication is a challenge that we all face. I could sit here and rattle off 76 acronyms that would be completely un-understandable to you and maybe half of them to me,” adding that she “takes heart” from the fact that the various climate change wings of the UN and many other constituencies realise there is a communication problem and are determined to set that right.

“You know something’s a good idea when everybody else reaches the same conclusion at more or less the same time… Everybody has reached the conclusion that we are just not communicating properly. I see more and more scientists making a huge effort to translate – to not use weird weirdo words, to use simple words and above all to humanise.”

“We need to put a human face on climate. This is not some esoteric concept out there with scientists that has nothing to do with human beings. In as much as we can, we must show what the impact is on citizens, on communities, on cities. That is what actually helps to bridge the communications gap, even more than words will,” Ms Figueres said.

The increasing incidence of extreme weather is around the world will also help the cause of agreeing stringent emissions targets in Paris 2015, she said.

Extreme weather events such as flooding in the UK and Australia’s hottest year on record were building the case for combating climate change around the world, she said.

Ms Figueres praised the UK government for setting a good example to the rest of the world by setting ambitious, legally-binding targets to reduce emissions.

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence